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Book & Movie Review: Red Dragon

By Quirkybibliophile @qbibliophile
Book & Movie Review: Red Dragon
Publication Date: 2009 (originally published in 1981)
Publisher: The Berkley Publishing Group
Format: Paperback
Genre:  Mystery/Thriller
Why I Chose It: It was given to me by Jill at Fizzy Thoughts for the Dueling Monsters Showdown.
Rating: Book & Movie Review: Red Dragon Book & Movie Review: Red DragonBook & Movie Review: Red Dragon Book & Movie Review: Red Dragon (3.5/5 stars)
Short Synopsis of Book (Spoiler Free):
Former FBI investigator Will Graham retired after several soul-crushing experiences, including a near-fatal encounter with serial killer Hannibal Lecter. Lecter, a clever psychiatrist with a penchant for cannibalistic cuisine, is now held in custody.
Will is living a quiet life, with his wife and stepson, in Marathon, Florida. However when former colleague Jack Crawford appears, seeking Will's help tracking down a particularly sick and twisted serial killer, he can't refuse. Although the case is painful for him, and threatens to bring his marriage to an end, Will becomes determined to see it through.
The FBI is seeking the "Tooth Fairy," later known as the "Red Dragon," who has murdered two seemingly unrelated families, in separate parts of the country, in a brutal and bizarre fashion. Will has a particular gift for identifying serial killers. After all, it was he who nailed the notorious Hannibal Lecter. He is able to identify with other people, including sick and twisted killers, entering their minds and understanding what motivates them. This gift is both an asset and an albatross around his neck.
In the course of the investigation, Will enlists the help of unlikely allies, including sleazy tabloid reporter Freddy Lounds and Hannibal Lecter. Lecter offers bits of valuable insight while trying to get into Graham's head, compromising his sanity. The risks keep mounting as Graham and Crawford struggle to find the "Red Dragon" before he kills again.
More Thoughts on the Novel (Spoilers):
What I Liked:
  1. This is a straightforward thriller, and it's well done. It's strongly developed, well paced and suspenseful. I do like a good mystery.
  2. There is a great deal of forensic detail, which I find fascinating.
  3. Hannibal Lecter and Francis Dolarhyde ("Red Dragon") are spectacularly bat shit crazy and creepy.
  4. Will Graham is a smart hero who is easy to relate to as he wrestles with his emotions, his conscience, and his own dark side throughout the investigation.
  5. Just the right amount of descriptive detail. I could see each setting and feel the sweltering summer heat in the Deep South.
  6. Reba, Dolarhyde's love interest, is a great character. I love the scene where she gets to touch the tiger.

What I Didn't Like:
  1. The psychology behind Dolarhyde's evolution into a psychopath was a bit too cut and dried. I agree that abusive childhoods are fertile breeding grounds for sociopathy. And abuse can cause dissociative personality disorder. In a textbook way, I guess the psychology is pretty accurate. But the way Francis splits into himself and the "Red Dragon," with the dragon speaking in his grandmother's voice, was just too cliched. And his choosing, as his victims, families just like his stepfamily -- a pretty mom, two boys and a girl? Oh, and he even has mommy issues. Although this is a thriller rather than literary fiction, I thought it was too heavy-handed and trite.
  2. The ending sucked. Dolarhyde conveniently fakes his own suicide and turns up at Graham's house in Florida? You might as well have the "drowned" killer pop up out of the bathtub fifteen minutes later. Pu-leeze. 
  3. While I liked Will Graham and Reba -- and this book boasts not one, but two, spectacular nut jobs -- I found most of the characters forgettable. More depth of character development -- particularly with Will, Molly, and Jack -- would've enriched this novel tremendously.
  4. Will and Molly's ending. :-( Why couldn't a book with so many cliches, including the killer with mommy issues, give us a happy ending for those two? I'm just sayin'

About the Film Adaptation:
Book & Movie Review: Red Dragon
Year Released: 2002
Directed by: Brett Ratner
Written by: Ted Tally, based on the novel by Thomas Harris
Rating: Book & Movie Review: Red DragonBook & Movie Review: Red DragonBook & Movie Review: Red Dragon Book & Movie Review: Red Dragon(3.5/5 Stars)
I almost didn't watch this because ... well ... why watch a thriller if you already know what happens? But this movie features such a spectacular cast, I couldn't resist. Ralph Fiennes. Emily Watson. Philip Seymour Hoffman. Anthony Hopkins. Edward Norton. Harvey Keitel. The cast reads like a "Who's Who" of magnificent actors.
Book & Movie Review: Red Dragon
Though I wasn't as blown away by their performances as I was by their work in other roles, they did a great job. As "Red Dragon," Fiennes was understated, yet creepy. With expert use of his voice and body language, he owned the role. Hopkins was predictably skillful and creepy as Hannibal Lecter. Norton and Keitel did strong work, though not as good as they've done in other films. And I never would have pictured Philip Seymour Hoffman as sleazy tabloid reporter Freddy Lounds, but he definitely pulled it off.
Book & Movie Review: Red Dragon
The stand out performance, for me, was Emily Watson as Reba. She portrayed a staunchly independent blind woman, with constantly shifting reactions to the world around her, and did it brilliantly. She is one of my all-time favorite actresses -- love her!
Book & Movie Review: Red Dragon
Otherwise, I have little to add to my review of the book, above. While it pares down the story to fit a screenplay, the film follows the novel closely. My reaction to the movie -- both positive and negative -- reflects my opinion of the novel. It's effectively plotted and well-paced with a gratifying amount of twisted, disturbing insanity. However, there isn't much that elevates it from a run-of-the-mill thriller.
Other Reviews: That's What She Read; Fizzy Thoughts

Have you read or seen this? What did you think? 
Book & Movie Review: Red Dragon
So which is the better psycho-nut, Hannibal Lecter or Patrick Bateman?Tune in tomorrow to find out how I cast my vote.

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